The European Parliament passed today a resolution affirming that sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are fundamental human rights that must be upheld by European Union (EU) Member States.
The resolution, passed in a plenary session of the Parliament after being approved in the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee on May 11, is the first SRHR resolution passed by the Parliament in almost 20 years and calls for removal of all barriers in access to abortion, modern contraception, quality maternal health care, assisted reproductive technologies and comprehensive sexuality education.
The resolution includes recommendations for European Union (EU) Member States to ensure that their national laws and policies guarantee SRHR free from discrimination, coercion and violence and promote accessibility of SRHR health services, information, and education.
“The European Parliament’s adoption of this comprehensive SRHR resolution demonstrates the EU’s commitment to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, as critical for guaranteeing women’s rights and gender equality within the EU,” said Katrine Thomasen, Senior Legal Advisor for Europe of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Regressive threats to sexual and reproductive rights are increasing in many member states —so it’s critical that EU institutions condemn this regression and take robust action to protect these rights.”
In passing the resolution, the Parliament also called on the European Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU, and other EU institutions to counter the threats of regression in SRHR, increase support for women’s rights and SRHR civil society organizations and women human rights defenders working in Member States, and address the disruptions and limitations in access to sexual and reproductive health care services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resolution Promotes Non-discrimination and Access to SRHR Services, Including Abortion
The resolution calls on Member States to discharge their human rights obligations with regard to SRHR services, namely to:
- Safeguard the rights of all people—across age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and national origin—to make their own decisions about sexual and reproductive health and to ensure the right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and equality within their national SRHR policies and laws.
- Ensure access to the full spectrum of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care by removing legal, policy, financial and other barriers and securing adequate funding for SRHR services. This includes ensuring access to evidence-based, age-appropriate and comprehensive sexuality education; abortion care; modern contraception; fertility treatments; and quality maternity, pregnancy, and birth-related care.
- Remove obstacles to legal abortion and bring national laws into line with international human rights standards and regional best practices by decriminalizing abortion and ensuring that abortion is legal in early pregnancy as well as removing all barriers in access to timely care
The resolution also urges EU institutions and agencies to advance universal access to SRHR services by taking actions that promote gender equality, accessibility, informed choice, consent and respect, non-discrimination, and non-violence.
Addressing Barriers to Abortion Access in the EU
The adopted resolution cites the Center’s World Abortion Laws Map, pointing out that 41% of women around the world live in countries with restrictive laws on abortion and 59% live in countries that broadly allow it. Yet, as the text explains, even where abortion care is legally available, restrictive laws often make it difficult to access, causing harm to those needing abortion care and placing their health and well-being at risk.
Among EU Member States, Malta bans abortion in all circumstances and Poland has highly restrictive laws that make accessing abortion care very difficult. A bill recently introduced in the Malta Parliament seeks to remove the country’s strict criminal penalties for abortion, while its current law includes penalties of up to four years imprisonment for doctors who provide abortion care and three years for patients or those who help patients find care.
The Center’s Europe program works with a broad group of stakeholders at the EU level, the Council of Europe, and other multilateral institutions to promote actions by those institutions that advance the respect and protection of SRHR across the region.
- European Parliament resolution on SRHR
- The Center’s work advocating for SRHR at the European Union and the Council of Europe
- European Abortion Laws: A Comparative Overview
- Issue paper of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe
- The Center’s work in Europe
- World Abortion Laws Map